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28.11.2007 General News

Weija residents disagree with officials over demolition exercise

Weija residents disagree with officials over demolition exercise

A war of words has broken out between some residents of Weija, on the one hand, and the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL), on the other, following the earmarking of 2,000 houses in the Weija Dam area for demolition this week.

At a heated meeting in the area Tuesday, the residents argued that the properties earmarked for demolition were not within the demarcated lands of the GWCL and resolved to resist any attempt by the security agencies and the company to carry out the intended exercise.

"This matter must be settled by the courts. We are prepared for any legal showdown with whoever wants to deprive us of our lawful properties," a spokesman for the residents yelled in anger.

Most of the structures earmarked for demolition are about 150 metres away from the back of the fence wall mounted by the GWCL. And while the residents claimed the fence represented their common boundary, the GWCL said the wall was only to protect the dam.

The residents further claimed that the area was well demarcated and approved and that the GWCL which had declared them squatters, was the same company that provided the residents with water, for which the GWCL claimed money at the end of every month.

They asked why the GWCL would extend water supply to their homes if it knew the area was its land which had been occupied illegally.

They further claimed that when some of the structures there were marked by the Ga West District Assembly (GWDA) for the owners to produce their building permits, the heeded the call and “we paid the necessary penalties to have our documents regularized for us.”

"If the company has any problems, it should face the assembly and not innocent people like us," they added.

To buttress their point, the residents made available to the Daily Graphic documents from the GWDA and the Lands Commission indicating that they had titles to the land.

But the Ga West District Chief Executive (DCE), Mr Quartey Papafio, described the building permits produced by the residents as fake.

He said it was based on those fake permits that six building inspectors of the assembly were interdicted last June for further investigations to proceed.

Mr Papafio said there was no way the assembly could have issued permits for private constructions in that area.

Mr Daniel Sackey, the immediate Past Assembly Member for the area and son of the late chief of Weija, who had issued out lands to some of the residents, said the chiefs and opinion leaders in the area had complied with all the instructions given for the protection of the dam.

He said the opinion leaders and the chiefs of Weija had been at the forefront to ensure that residents did not do anything that would endanger the dam.

Mr Sackey said when it came to their knowledge that some people were using dynamite to blast stones near the dam, they quickly moved in to stop them.

He said it was, therefore, unnecessary for the GWCL to lay claim to land that did not belong to it, under the guise that the activities there threatened the survival of the dam.

Mr Sackey said to prevent problems such as what was emerging, two committees were established about three years ago, with membership including officials of the GWCL, the Water Resources Commission and opinion leaders from Weija stool.

He explained that at the meetings of the committee, a clear-cut demarcation was made and both parties agreed to respect the decision.

Mr Sackey said the GWCL planted trees and erected a wall along its boundaries to prevent encroachment, arguing that the company, in a bid to grab the land belonging to the Weija stool, had discarded the original demarcation plan which both parties had agreed to and had rather encroached on the land.

He said the encroached land included where the training school of the GWCL was sited.

Mr Sackey said the move that the GWCL had initiated would not help anybody and that it was important for both parties to go back to the drawing table and re-negotiate.

He said the most serious aspect of the whole issue was that even for the land that the GWCL occupied, the government had not paid the agreed compensation to the chiefs and elders of Weija since the land was acquired in 1978.

Last Monday November 26, 2007, officials from the GWCL, National Security and the GWDA put marks on about 2,000 structures which the authorities claimed had been illegally sited in the Weija Dam area and earmarked them for demolition.

Information gathered by the Daily Graphic revealed that about eight bulldozers and giant cranes had been put on standby to undertake a surprise demolition exercise of the structures by the end of this week.